If there’s anyone that doesn’t disembody the carvings of your typical Hollywood star it’s Heath Ledger. Always dressed down and seemingly unaware of his growing statue as one of the world’s most popular young actors, Ledger is quick to point out he’s still the boy from Perth who just won a couple of film parts. CLINT MORRIS talks to the star of Gregor Jordan’s new take on "Ned Kelly".
Walking back into his native Australia, Ledger says nothing at all has changed for him. “Meat Pies still taste the same [here in Australia], The Weather’s still great…I mean it’s a little bit different right now, with the film coming out and all, but other than that, it’s just nice to be back, to sell all my mates. My Family is coming down on Friday from Perth [for the “Ned Kelly” premiere] and I’m really looking forward to seeing them. The whole ‘star’ thing is not a big issue with them and that’s what I love about them”.
Ledger can be as modest as he likes, but the truth is he has risen from reasonably unknown Australian actor to enormously popular Hollywood heartthrob. But according to Ledger, it still doesn’t mean he gets to pick and choose his roles. “My agency helps control scripts, and I feel like I’ve got control over it because I’ve got my choice of 10 scripts, but the truth is these are like 10 of 100 that have been selected for me”, he explains. “Lately, I’ve felt I’d like to get a body of work together, and it was a pretty easy choice to do this movie [Ned Kelly] – I’d be crazy not to. I was also really excited about working with Gregs [Director Gregor Jordan] again”.
And how much pressure did Ledger feel playing an iconic character like Australian outlaw, Ned Kelly? “I understood there was pressure but if I’d taken notice of that pressure I’d be a pretty self conscious performer. I wanted to just find the character, stick to it, and give a consistent performance”.
Jordan’s version of “Ned Kelly” is a mixture of fact and fiction, but Ledger thinks adding a bit of fluff to the film makes the man seem more real. “You see all this heart, passion and how he protects his family and so on, and by adding some lighter moments – like the romance – it adds another dimension to him. You get to see him as a normal 20 year old kid”.
“I did read quite a few books and at the end of the day the only piece of literature that rang true for me was the Jerilderie letter because it was his voice and I really felt his heart and how passionate he was. That was really the only instrumental piece, other than a portrait of him. He held a lot of dignity and pride in his eyes in that portrait think that was enough also just having that. The rest of it was just guessing. But we certainly did enough research to the point where we didn’t have to figure it all out on the day”.
One thing Ledger says he definitely didn’t have to do was to coach his lesser-known co-stars, notably Irish actors Laurence Kinlan and Philip Barantini, who play members of his gang. “They’re really good actors – they certainly don’t need any coaching from me. If anything they were schooling my accent.
“But when you’re doing a movie and the movie is based around a gang of people you end up becoming somewhat usually like a gang off screen”, says Ledger. “ I was really lucky because every role in this film is completely covered right down to the smallest little part”.
And what of the rumours that he might star as Mad Max’s son in the upcoming “Fury Road: Mad Max 4”? “No”, he laughs. “I did say to [Director] George Miller I’d do a walk-on role in it and have Mad Max shoot me in the head. It’ll be cool just to be part of a Mad Max movie, I certainly wasn’t up for the Son role though”.
And the musical project he reportedly wants to do? “I use to study dance and have a bit of dance history which I did to make me comfortable with body movement. I love dancing, it’s a great form of expression, and Tap-dancing is fantastic. If the right one [film] came along I’d definitely consider it”.
Outlaw, Tap-Dancer, Hollywood Heartthrob…. the sky’s the limit for Heath Ledger.
NED KELLY Commences in Cinemas this week